Application Development

What is Rapid Application Development (RAD)? An Ultimate Guide for 2023


What is Rapid Application Development (RAD)?

Rapid Application Development or RAD means an adaptive software development model based on prototyping and quick feedback with less emphasis on specific planning. In general, the RAD approach prioritizes development and building a prototype, rather than planning.  With rapid application development, developers can quickly make multiple iterations and updates to the software without starting from scratch. This helps ensure that the final outcome is more quality-focused and aligns with the end users’ requirements.

“One of the major advantages of rapid application development is that you can change the design, add functionality, and keep reiterating as frequently as possible without having to start from scratch each time.

A major challenge with the waterfall model is that once the product moves into the testing phase, the tester cannot go back to reiterate and make changes to the core functions and features. This essentially leaves teams with a software that may or may not fit the end-users’ evolving requirements.

Rapid application development


Rapid Application Development (RAD) was conceived in the 1980s, so it’s definitely not something new. But unlike the waterfall model, it’s not singular. It’s a continuous evolution of development philosophies according to the requirement at that particular time.

Initially, Barry Boehm, James Martin, and a number of others saw that software was not limited to traditional methods of engineering. It wasn’t a singular resource that required a fixed structure. It was malleable to suit the needs of the user.

Why do you use Rapid Application Development?

RAD is the best approach to develop prototypes swiftly for testing software functionalities without worrying about any effects on the end product. Businesses opt RAD approach as it requires little focus on the planning phase while enabling the team to design, review, and iterate features and functionalities quickly.

Initially, rapid application development took the shape of the Spiral model [2], where one or more development models were used to work on a particular project.

Over time, RAD phases have changed. It molded itself to fit the requirements of the time while retaining some core development guidelines. The RAD approach is driven by user interface needs and is perfect for application development requiring quick development and deployment. With visual interface tools and pre-built modules, RAD helps create software apps quickly and easily. Businesses adopt different types of rapid app development because of their agility, flexibility, and scalability.


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Steps in Rapid Application Development

Here are the four basic steps of RAD:

1. Define the requirements

At the very beginning, rapid application development sets itself apart from traditional software development models. It doesn’t require you to sit with end users and get a detailed list of specifications; instead, it asks for a broad requirement. The broad nature of the requirements helps you take the time to segment specific requirements at different points of the development cycle.

2. Prototype

This is where the actual development takes place. Instead of following a rigid set of requirements, developers create prototypes with different features and functions as fast as they can. These prototypes are then shown to the clients who decide what they like and what they don’t.

More often than not, these prototypes are quickly made to work to showcase just the key features. This is normal, and the final product is only created during the finalization stage where the client and developer are in alignment with the final product.

3. Construction 

The construction stage is a crucial stage of development. Engineers and developers work tirelessly to flesh out a working system from a working model. Feedback and reviews are crucial at this stage and most bugs, issues, and alterations are addressed during this stage. This stage can be particularly long, especially in cases where clients change directions or feedback is intensive.

4. Deployment 

The final stage of RAD involves deploying the built system into a live production environment. The deployment phase involves intensive scale testing, technical documentation, issue tracking, final customizations, and system simulation. Teams also spend time debugging the app and running final updates and maintenance tasks before going live.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Rapid Application Development (RAD) model

With these steps, it can seem like application development’s a great idea for all projects, but that’s a stretch. RAD software is great for small teams and quick projects. But it’s not a solution to everything. Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of using rapid application development.

Advantages of RAD model

Disadvantages of RAD model

Requirements can be changed at any time Needs strong team collaboration
Encourages and priorities customer feedback Cannot work with large teams
Reviews are quick Needs highly skilled developers
Development time is drastically reduced Needs user requirements throughout the life cycle of the product
More productivity with fewer people Only suitable for projects which have a small development time
The time between prototypes and iterations is short More complex to manage when compared to other models
Integration isn’t a problem, since it integrates from project inception Only systems which can be modularised can be developed using Rapid application development.


Rapid Application Development vs other software development models

When compared to other software development models, the RAD framework varies by a considerable amount. Obviously, the major difference is how rapid application development focuses on speed when compared to other models which usually focus on bringing a working product to the customer.




Builds a functional, working model of the application in the fastest way possible

Emphasizes intensive planning and follows through on set objectives 

Builds the app by breaking down large objectives into smaller ‘sprints’

Perfect for projects that require the shortest time to complete

Projects are thoroughly planned and execution is typically time-consuming

Helps develop projects in periodical milestones or ‘sprints’

Can adjust to changing requirements

Does not allow for changes once planning is done

Can quite easily adjust to changes even at later stages

Involves clients throughout the development cycle

Only involve clients during the planning stage

Involves clients throughout the development 

Prioritizes functionality over aspects of UI/UX

Considers all aspects of the app before deployment

UI/UX takes as much priority as functionality 


When can you use Rapid Application Development methodology?

1. When you can reliably test your prototypes

If you’ve got a pool of users who can give consistent and reliable feedback on the prototypes you make, then rapid application development is a great model to follow. Prototypes built through the rapid application development model depend on feedback from previous iterations, so reliable feedback from dependable sources can be immensely helpful.

2. When you’ve got the budget

Compared to other development models, rapid application development is relatively inexpensive, but there are some instances where the developments can be expensive due to RAD characteristics. Hiring talented staff means you’ll need to give them appropriate salaries. The bright side is, if you’ve got the staff, you can get the idea from concept to end product a lot quicker than other models.

3. When you need a project done quickly

If you’ve got a tight deadline, rapid application development is the best bet. If you’re under pressure to deliver something that works, then opting for a RAD platform can be the best choice. If you don’t have the time to go through a long requirement planning and design phase, then rapid application development software is your best bet. Rapid application development takes an on-the-fly approach, which makes sense for quick development which can change direction on a dime.

An example of Rapid Application Development case study - Centric Consulting

Rapid application development is particularly useful for small businesses that need software done quickly, whilst having a lot of input during the development process.

Centric Consulting, a developer familiar with rapid application development and agile development methodologies, had a client[3] come to them with a requirement for software that would interface with their customers, one of which had over 35,000 employees, for procurement, invoicing, and payment.

Centric Consulting was able to use agile and rapid application development methodologies to quickly understand what the client needed, speed up the development process using Ruby on Rails, and keep costs low using rapid application development open source infrastructure.

Throughout the development process, the customer was able to provide input as to what functionalities were required. All those functionalities were rapidly added as and when they were demanded, and ultimately, the product was delivered to the client.

In the end, Centric Consulting not only met the demands of their client but was also able to meet their needs and grow its business.

Kissflow - The best Rapid Application Development platform 

There isn’t a doubt that using rapid application development tools is the best way to develop software. While it still remains the champion, a lot has changed in 20 years.

Kissflow is an example of the next generation of rapid application development. Kissflow's rapid application development platform is a no-code work platform that lets anyone develop their own automated process in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks. Kissflow can be used by a single person to work on developing an application.

This is rapid application development taken to a new level–making applications as quickly as possible that are ready to use instantly by the entire company.

With visual interface tools to create models quickly and easily, pre-built modules where you don’t have to do the heavy lifting, and drag-and-drop coding to provide a means of customization to those that don’t have the proper coding knowledge, Kissflow is designed keeping in mind that companies want tools that make their lives easier.

RAD Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does RAD mean?

RAD is an extremely flexible approach to app development that focuses on building a working prototype in the shortest amount of time. The philosophy embraces the changing nature of client requirements and lays more emphasis on the development on the go rather than having an extensive, structured plan.

What is Rapid Web Application Development?

Rapid web application development is an application development methodology that emphasizes speed and efficiency in creating web applications. It typically involves using pre-built, reusable code libraries and frameworks and agile development techniques such as incremental development and prototyping.

The goal of RWAD is to reduce the time and cost of developing web applications while still producing high-quality, functional software.

How does Rapid Application Development work?

Rapid application development has four phases or components that constitute the overarching framework—requirement gathering, rapid prototyping, construction, and deployment.

  • Defining requirements: Stakeholders discuss the high-level requirements of the application. 
  • Rapid prototyping: Teams work together to develop a working prototype of the application. 
  • Construction: Teams work on converting the beta model into a functional, working system. 
  • Deployment: After scale testing and documentation, the app moves into a production environment. 

Where to use the RAD model?

RAD is perfect for situations where app development specifically calls for quick development and deployment. It can be beneficial when:

  • The project requires a dynamic approach
  • Apps need to be developed quickly
  • Progress needs to be made visible 
  • Clients need to be involved in the development
  • User feedback is readily available
  • Technical risk is not high

What are some apps that can be developed through RAD?

Rapid app development is perfect for medium-sized applications that are not high-risk and needs to be periodically updated to maximize efficiency. Some examples are

  • IT helpdesk
  • Employee onboarding
  • Performance appraisals
  • Expense reimbursements
  • Creative requests

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